Thursday, June 28, 2018

Jim Button and Luke the Engine Driver

Jim Button and Luke the Engine Driver (original title: Jim Knopf und Lukas der Lokomotivführer) is a German children's novel written by Michael Ende. Published in 1960, it became one of the most successful German children's books in the postwar era after having first been rejected by a dozen publishers. It received the German Young Literature Prize in 1961 and has been translated into 33 languages.
Michael Ende grew up in Nazi Germany. His father, Edgar Ende, a painter, was banned as "degenerate" in 1936. Ende began writing the story in 1956 to provide a contrast to the Nazis' racist ideology and their misuse of the theory of evolution. In a 1991 radio interview, he stated, "The idea of racism and racial discrimination came from further consideration of Darwin's theories." Quoting Nazi euphemisms, he added, "The 'extermination of lives unworthy of life' and 'concentration camps'."
Ende did not see his book as a children's book. He based the title character on Jemmy Button, a native Fuegian who, as a teenager in the 19th century, was sold for a mother-of-pearl button and taken to England. He later returned to his homeland on the HMS Beagle, by way of the Galapagos Islands, along with fellow passenger Charles Darwin, who later wrote about the episode.
That Ende's book was full of Nazi symbols and imagery turned on their head, and that its English references stemmed from his interest in Darwin was unknown until late 2008, when Julia Voss, a German journalist, published an article in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung revealing the story's background. Voss cites aspects of Ende's book and of English colonialism, showing their similarity. Her examples of Nazi education and indoctrination, as well as information about Ende's own experiences with it, reveal the sources that inspired him.
Interesting to me is that the film based on the book shows Czech Peaked Berets; the very vintage berets that TONAK reproduced for South Pacific Berets!

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